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  • Richard Chan

Vending machine syndrome

If you ask me to describe in one sentence why is Haley the way she was, l would say it is because she had the “vending machine syndrome”. Haley was a one person dog. She would totally shut down when her female owner was not close by. She had intense separation anxiety. Once her female owner was out of sight, she would have a meltdown. She would look really fearful and would not take any food from anyone (not even from the husband of the female owner), regardless of how high value the food might be. She was involved in two very serious dog fights, and was quite nervous around other dogs. When she was with her owner, she would whine, jump up, and try all sorts of moves to demand attention. When she was on the walk with her owner, she would pull ahead and was always acting fearfully. The owner also reported that she could not really get Haley to listen to any obedience command. Haley would often just look at her blankly and not do what was asked. All these are an indication of a relationship that needs some work. Haley had a very unhealthy dependency on her female owner. It was not a proper relationship built upon respect and trust, it was one which she perceived her owner as a source of unlimited unearned reward. She did not trust her human to keep her safe and she did not respect her human as someone whom she should listen to and follow. Her female owner was a free vending machine to her. When a human is perceived by a dog as a fee vending machine, the dog can become very processive and dependent on this source of “free goodies”. The dog may feel very uncomfortable and even anxious if she has to be away from this vending machine even for just a few minutes. The dog does not trust nor respect the vending machine, she just really likes the feeling of owning this machine. She will whine and demand “free goodies” from the machine anytime she feels like it. She will jump up and manipulate her owner whenever she wants something. If the machine does not give her what she wants when she wants it, she will throw a tantrum at the machine with whining, and what not. She will look very nervous when she is in an unfamiliar setting with the vending machine because she does not believe a vending machine can protect her. Dogs do not trust their safety to a free vending machine - and rightly so - because a vending machine is not something anyone will look to for protection and security. A free vending machine is someone who gives the dog lots of unearned affection, misplaced freedom, and emotional humanization without providing the dog with something much needed yet often lacking - leadership. A free vending machine is also someone who is often very reactive and very emotional around their dogs. When a dog only looks at human two ways - as a scary being or a free vending machine - she will act the way Haley did. When you take the vending machine away, and show her how to have a proper healthy relationship with human, she can totally thrive. Dogs will change when you have a trusting and mutually respectful relationship with them. They will act differently almost automatically once you get that proper relationship in place. On the other hand, if you continue to be that free vending machine, your dog will continue to be pushy, anxious, entitled, unmotivated, and disconnected. A proper relationship is not built upon cookies. It is not built upon hugs and kisses. It is not built upon feeling sorry for the dog. It is not built upon looking at the dog as a baby with four legs. It is not built upon getting really emotional whenever you see your dog. It is not about looking at your dog as your therapist. It is about giving the dog what the dog needs as a dog. It is about making sense to the dog. It is about being that awesome inspiring teacher. It is about being that leader your dog has been craving for. This is very important because once you have the proper relationship, everything else will come easy. You will have a dog who is always eager to listen and will trust you and respect you from within. On the other hand, it does not matter whether you are using lots of treats, ecollar, prong collar, halti, harness, choke chain...if you continue to live with your dog as the free vending machine, you will not have the proper relationship and you will struggle. Hope this helps. Thank you.


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